Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa sees encouraging signs from Eddie Nketiah ahead of Arsenal loan decision

Marcelo Bielsa has seen signs that the Leeds United ‘process’ is benefiting Eddie Nketiah, ahead of a crucial time for all parties involved in his loan deal.

By Graham Smyth
Friday, 27th December 2019, 10:24 am

The Arsenal striker came on in the second half for Patrick Bamford against Preston North End on Boxing Day and impressed Bielsa with what the head coach regarded as an improvement on his previous cameo at Fulham.

“You realise that today Eddie played better than at Fulham,” said Bielsa, who also credited the work of Stuart Dallas and Mateusz Klich in midfield for supplying the striker with the ball.

Nketiah had one goalscoring chance and produced a fine save from Preston keeper Declan Rudd, but he was heavily involved on both flanks and used his pace to trouble the visitors’ backline, helping Leeds to pile on the pressure before their late equaliser rescued a point.

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It was a performance that highlighted just how important the 20-year-old could be for Leeds United, should they convince Arsenal and the player himself to persist with the loan deal beyond January.

Whites chief executive Angus Kinnear revealed in his programme notes for the Boxing Day fixture that one loanee, Jack Clarke, had already returned to parent club Spurs, but Leeds are working hard to ensure Nketiah doesn’t follow the winger out of Elland Road next month.

“I appreciate much speculation still surrounds the immediate future of Eddie Nketiah and although Arsenal have the right to recall him in January, we still believe he can make a huge impact over the remainder of the season at Leeds United,” said Kinnear.

“Accordingly, we are endeavouring to convince Eddie and the technical team at Arsenal that the coaching environment and profile of the playing opportunity at Thorp Arch and Elland Road is still the best choice for his long-term development.”

Eddie Nketiah came close to late heroics with this header, saved by Declan Rudd (Pic: Getty)

After the Preston draw, Bielsa made the point that his attempts to develop players can take time and require patience.

And what Nketiah displayed in his second half substitute appearance suggested the process is working for him.

“I always try to ensure the players arrive fit to a match, the best version of themselves. Sometimes this process is not fast, it is slow and we don’t achieve to do it faster.

“For instance, I saw Nketiah tonight with a good level, light, fresh to run, in a tough match and comfortable on the ball. He unbalanced a lot of situations, he was fast, comfortable in small spaces and able to unbalance the match.”

But Bielsa was unable to offer any concrete update on Nketiah’s situation.

“We don’t know Arsenal’s decision yet,” he added.